Sotheby’s has announced today the sale of works from the personal collection of Indian and Islamic Art acquired by the late American academic, Stuart Cary Welch. This renowned collector pioneered this area of art collecting as early as 1952. He was also a curator, scholar and gifted teacher. His contribution for over half a century in this field of art and aesthetics from India to the Middle East was second to none. He began his career as curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard in1956 and from 1979 to 1987 he was special consultant in charge of the department of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Welch was advisor to Arthur A Haughton, undertaking the acquisition of the Shah-nameh ‘Kings Book of Kings’, arguably, the most important Persian manuscript ever to come onto the market. This relationship soured when Haughton dismembered the manuscript and sold off single pages, one of the greatest cultural crimes of the 20th century. Welch’s love affair with painted manuscripts began with his discovery of French illuminations as a child. He regretted not having the vast sums required to collect in this area but, by chance, discovered the more accessible art of Persian miniatures on his honeymoon. He later branched out into Mogul and Indian painting from the Deccan to Rajasthan. His innate understanding and intense feeling for Indian and Islamic art, especially painting and drawing, stemmed from his own work as an accomplished artist. His elaborate drawings were often humorous and sometimes wicked by nature. He was friend to the great and good and could count as close friends the Economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, Writers Bruce Chatwin & Ruth Prawer Jhabvala , Painter Howard Hodgkin, Film Director James Ivory, The Aga Kahn, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with whom he travelled extensively. Welch was able to enlighten and lead others towards a richer and deeper appreciation of the subject. A testament to his infectious enthusiasm for artistic beauty and to his inspirational gifts as a teacher and mentor.
The Stuart Cary Welch Collection: Arts of the Islamic World in April 2011, and Part II. Welch Collection: Arts of India in May 2011. Sotheby’s London